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Applications for entrance into the Ph.D. Program in Computer Science can be made online only. See Admissions for application and financial assistance deadlines.  In certain extreme situations, hard copies of applications may be considered. Please contact the Assistant Program Officer for information. 

Applicants can expect to hear a decision 4 to 5 weeks after the deadline.  The committee is not able to review incomplete applications.

Any individual seriously considering applying for entrance into the Ph.D. Program in Computer Science should consult The Graduate Center Bulletin and The Graduate Center Student Handbook: both sources provide an excellent and comprehensive guide to Graduate School policy and services.

All interested individuals must consult Application Instructions Forms.

We present in this section some additional information.

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

GRE scores must be received for each applicant. Applicants should have a quantitative score in the 80thpercentile. Applicants who have quantitative scores In the 70th percentile will be considered if the applicant has other areas that are exceptional.Verbal scores should be above the 50th percentile. Please refer to for converting scores between old and new grading formats. (Students with lower scores may be, under special circumstances, considered for admission.)

Background and whether a Masters degree required for admission?

Admission to the Program should be considered only by those individuals who have done exceptionally well in their previous university studies in Computer Science, Mathematics or related sciences. A Masters degree is not a 'formal' prerequisite for admission but is strongly recommended. Applicants who do not have an MS or MA degree in Computer Science (or a related field) should demonstrate exceptional promise and sufficient background for entrance in their applications. Specifically, entering students are expected to have a background (minimally at an undergraduate level) in the following areas:

  • 1) Operating Systems

  • 2) Fundamental Algorithms

  • 3) Object-Oriented Programming

  • 4) Databases

  • 5) Discrete Mathematics

  • 6) Computer Architecture

  • 7) Theoretical Computation

  • 8) Programming Languages

  • 9) Probability

On rare occasion, students may be admitted with deficiencies in their backgrounds and will be required to take certain graduate or undergraduate courses to compensate. Graduate courses required to fulfill deficiencies may be included in the first thirty credits for the degree – if approved by the Program's Executive Officer – and the student achieves a minimum grade of B in the course.

The TOEFL Examination

For further information please consult Application Instructions Forms.

Letters of Recommendation

For further information please consult Application Instructions Forms.

Program Requirements

Registration Requirements

Matriculated students in the Program are required to be "in status," that is, they must be either officially registered for course work and/or research, or on approved leave of absence for each and every semester until the completion of all degree requirements. No more than four leaves of absence are allowed and each requires the Program EO's permission. International students should consult the Office of International Students for guidelines concerning the special considerations under which leaves of absence can be granted.

Degree Requirements (Courses)

Each student in the Program is required to complete a minimum of 60 credits of approved graduate courses, with a GPA equivalent to a B or better. Students entering the Program who have completed graduate course work in Computer Science or a related field prior to entry into the Program may petition the Executive Officer to evaluate this course work for the purpose of advancing credit toward the doctorate. Transferable course work will be given after successfully passing the First Exam. No transfer credit will be given for any courses completed at other institutions with final grades lower than "B." Similarly, no credit can be transferred for courses for which the student received an "incomplete" or for which no grade has been entered on the student's official transcript. A maximum of 30 acceptable graduate credits taken prior to admission into the Ph.D. Program in Computer Science may be applied to the degree.

During the first year of matriculation, student must take certain (i.e. required) classes. See Level I below.

Residency Requirements

At least 30 of the credits for the doctoral degree must be taken in residence at the City University of New York. Doctoral students are expected to spend at least one year in full-time or certified full-time residence at CUNY; this consists of a schedule of no fewer than seven credits, or the equivalent, for each of two consecutive semesters. International students must be considered full-time throughout their time in the Program.

Time Limits

A student who matriculated after the completion of 30 credits of acceptable course work (e.g. after having completed an MS or MA degree in Computer Science or a related field) must complete all academic requirements within 14 semesters (otherwise within 16 semesters).

Leaves of Absence (LoA’s) effectively stop the clock for the semester(s) a student may be awarded one; LoA’s are not counted in the total number of semesters allowable in which to complete the degree. Students may request up to four semesters of leave during their time in the Computer Science Ph.D. Program. LoA’s are awarded at the discretion of the Executive Officer and are given on a semester basis. Deadlines for requesting a LoA are published in the Semester Announcement of Courses, included with a student’s registration materials. These deadlines are strictly followed. A student may not fulfill any academic requirement while on a Leave of Absence (no First Exams, Second Exams, Advancement to Candidacy, etc.).

Levels to the PhD Program in Computer Science

There are three levels of students: level I, level II, and level III. These levels govern not only progress in the PhD program, but also how the tuition costs are determined. Under Academic Policies and Procedures of the student handbook, you can find the details in the schedule of tuition charges as a function of level. All Entering students are Level I.

General Remarks

Students must register for at least 7 credit hours each semester to be fully enrolled. For international students this is particularly important to maintain their visa status. Weighted Instruction Units (WIU) can be included in the required 7 credit minimum.

Watch the GC calendar for changes in class schedules. Some weekdays may have no classes while others may follow the schedule for another day.

Pay close attention to last dates to add and last dates to drop classes. These are also listed on the GC calendar.

Level I

The academic goal of this first study period is not only to complete the required course work (see below) and to gain a firm foundation in different areas of Computer Science but also to establish and develop rapports with members of the Doctoral Faculty. Identifying a (potential) mentor working in a field of research of interest to the student should be considered a desirable goal at this early stage. And this, in turn, should lead to the eventual establishment of the student’s Examining Committee.
During the first year, students are expected to take 5 courses, at least 4 of which are in the core course area. The program offers core courses in three broad research areas as listed in the following:

·         Algorithms and Theory

o   C Sc 70010 Algorithms
o   C Sc 73010 Cryptography and Computer Security
o   C Sc 71010 Programming Languages
o   C Sc 75100 Logical Fundamentals of Computer Science

·         Artificial Intelligence

o   C Sc 74011 Artificial Intelligence
o   C Sc 74020 Machine Learning
o   C Sc 74030 Computer Vision and Image Processing
o   C Sc 74040 Natural Language Processing

·         Systems and Computational Science

o   C Sc 72010 Computer Networks
o   C Sc 72020 Distributed Operating Systems
o   C Sc 72030 Database Systems
o   C Sc 76010 Parallel Scientific Computing

The First Examination

Students must complete the following requirements to complete the First Exam:

o  Take CSc 70010, the Algorithms course, and pass its final written exam with a score of at least 70 points out of 100 in at most two attempts. Students who fail the Algorithms Final written exam the first time, must formally register for the Algorithms class the next year as an audit and take the final exam.

Advance to Level II

o   Pass the first exam.
o   Pass four core courses, Algorithms being one of the four, with at least one core course from each of the three research areas defined above, with an average grade of B+ (GPA 3.3).
The latest students can finish the above requirements is by the end of the fourth semester.
o   Complete CSc 80010, the Research Survey course.

Requirements To Advance To Level II

After completion of four core courses and the research survey course, students entering with a Master’s degree may request the Executive Officer to review their Master’s transcript so that their relevant Master’s courses can be transferred and included in their 60 credit course requirements for the PhD. At most 30 credits may be transferred.

When students have accumulated 45 credits of course work, and completed all the items listed above they advance to Level II.

45 Credit requirement

Students are required to take courses for a total of 45 credits to advance to Level II of the program. This requirement is satisfied by taking the required first year courses plus the additional courses to make a total of 45 credits. Students, who come into the program with a Master's degree in computer science, may transfer up to 30 credits of their courses to satisfy GC course credit requirements. To transfer a course credit, the student must have attained at least a B course grade. Course grades of P or S can be allowed if those courses satisfied the requirements of the awarded Master's degree. The Executive Officer has to review any requests for transferring course credits and will allow transferring credits only for courses that are computer science related.

Certain courses offered through the Interuniversity Doctoral Consortium (Columbia University (including Teachers College), Fordham University, New School University, New York University (including Steinhardt School of Education), Princeton University, Rutgers–New Brunswick (State University of New Jersey), and Stony Brook (State University of New York)) may also be counted as applicable toward the completion of these required course credits. Students must have a year in residency at GC CUNY to take advantage of the consortium courses.
For information on the Interuniversity Doctoral Consortium, consult the Office of the Registrar or the Office of Student Services or the Graduate Center Student Handbook.

Level II

Finding an Area of Research and a Mentor

Selecting a focused area of research and or a mentor is challenging – and important. Every student should learn as much as possible about the Program's faculty and research areas in the first year of study and be ready by the second year (or at the latest the third year), to choose a mentor also known as, an advisor. (Of course, an advisor must agree to take the student on to supervise the student's work.) A student can make changes as he or she progresses through the Program, but it is assumed that his or her area of focus will not radically shift after he or she has selected an area of interest. (If a student's area does change drastically, that student must speak to the Executive Officer; he or she may be required to ‘retake’ the Second Examination.)

The Second Examination

Students are required to pass a Second Exam before they can advance to Level III status. In order to pass this Second Exam students are required to:

o   Select a Second Exam Committee. Committee must include your advisor and at least two members of the doctoral faculty in Computer Science or a related interdisciplinary field.

o   Orally present a survey with a written report to a Second Exam Committee which approves the presentation and report.

o  Complete at least two three credit 80000 level courses above 80020.

o  Have no incompletes left on the record and maintain at least an average grade of B

o  Complete 60 credits, at least 30 of those in residence
    - May use the option of taking the four credit course Computer Science Research, CSc 80020, to count in the 60 credit requirement. The course may be taken at most two times over two semesters.

When the above items are completed the student is defined to complete the Second Exam and advances to Level III, which is also called candidacy.

Level III

Dissertation Proposal

Level III students must write a Dissertation Proposal that will convince their Committee that they have identified a topic that is worthy of doctoral research, both for its originality and for its significance, and that they have an approach to handling this topic that shows they are conversant with the state of the art directly relevant to their proposed research and that it is doable in a reasonable amount of time. This document should show that they have insight into the problem and what open problems still exist.

The Dissertation Proposal Examination has a written and oral component. The written part must be distributed to your committee and the Executive Officer at least three weeks prior to the oral presentation. The Committee must consist of at least three faculty members on the doctoral faculty of one of the Graduate Center PhD programs,  with your advisor being a member of the CS Doctoral faculty. In addition the committee must have one outside member.

The outside member should be an expert in your research area and can be from a university, government lab, or high tech company.

The oral examination should be designed to last 45 minutes, without an allowance for questions. Part of the presentation should be an approximate timeline of the time you estimate for the components of your final dissertation. The candidate should be prepared for the committee to ask probing questions.
(Should a student significantly change the area of intended research in the interim between the successful completion of the Second Exam and the Dissertation Proposal, the student's Second Examination Committee may require that he or she show proficiency in another area of Computer Science more closely related to the new topic of research by passing another examination in the same format.)

Requirements To Advance To Dissertation Research

Level III students must
o   Select a dissertation proposal committee
o   Orally present a dissertation proposal with a written report to the Dissertation Proposal Committee which approves the presentation and report.
o   May use the option of taking the four credit course Computer Science Research, CSc 80020, to count in the 60 credit requirement. The course may be taken at most two times over two semesters.


At this final and most challenging phase in the Ph.D. Program, students engage in original research, aiming to make a significant and new contribution to their field of study (under the direction of their advisors).

Dissertation Defense

To complete PhD requirements, students must
o   Write a clear, original and significant dissertation.
o   Have some research papers based on the dissertation accepted in a peer reviewed journal or highly regarded conference proceeding. It is expected that a dissertation should contain at least two publishable papers – preferably three.
o   Select a defense committee. Examining Committee has to include your advisor, at least two other members of the doctoral faculty in Computer Science or a related interdisciplinary field and an "outside member" who is required to participate in the Final Examination.
o   Orally present a dissertation defense to the defense committee which approves the presentation and the dissertation. Students are required to email a draft of their dissertation in the Program Office and to all members of their committee at least four weeks prior to the time of the Final Examination. Along with this draft, they must provide the names and addresses of their Examining Committee members.
The "outside member" of defence committee must be in place and able to read, critique and be present at the student's dissertation defense. The Executive Officer may decide to appoint the outside member at his/her discretion. It is a student’s responsibility to ascertain the availability and willingness to participate of all members of his or her Examining Committee.
Students should be in close contact with their mentors and members of their Examining Committees throughout the "dissertation process," sending them drafts and soliciting their comments. When a final draft of the dissertation is set (and acceptable), the student should schedule a mutually acceptable date and time with the members of his or her Examining Committee and the Executive Officer – when all will be able to attend the presentation and defense. The exam should be scheduled for three hours.
Once successfully defended, the student must deposit the approved final version of the dissertation at the Mina Rees Library. Regulations concerning the style of the dissertation and deposit procedures are available at the Office of the Dissertation Assistant, located in Room 2304 (2nd floor) in the Mina Rees Library (212-817-7069). You may also wish to view the Mina Rees Library thesis and dissertation guide page for details.